Google pulls plug on cheap renewable energy project

In a move described by the company as 'off-season spring cleaning', Google has announced it is scrapping its 'Renewable Energy Cheaper than Coal' initiative.

Google announced the news on its official blog, which explained the move is part of an ongoing rationalisation process, now in its third round, which has seen projects which “haven’t had the impact we’d hoped for” shut down.

The initiative, launched almost exactly four years ago, aimed to produce one gigawatt of renewable energy capacity that was cheaper than coal. Speaking at the time, Google co-founder Larry Page said: “We have gained expertise in designing and building large-scale, energy-intensive facilities by building efficient data centres,” said Larry Page, Google co-founder. We want to apply the same creativity and innovation to the challenge of generating renewable electricity at globally significant scale, and produce it cheaper than from coal.”

Explaining the decision, the blog states: “The initiative (Renewable Energy Cheaper than Coal) was developed as an effort to drive down the cost of renewable energy, with an engineering team focused on researching improvements to solar power technology. At this point, other institutions are better positioned than Google to take this research to the next level. So we’ve published our results to help others in the field continue to advance the state of power tower technology, and we’ve closed our efforts. We will continue our work to generate cleaner, more efficient energy-including our on-campus efforts, procuring renewable energy for our data centers, making our data centers even more efficient and investing more than $850 million in renewable energy technologies.”

The move follows news earlier this month that Google’s green czar, Bill Weihl, had stepped down after more than five years in the role.

Will Parsons

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